Americans constructing the continental railroad, in the United States and creating sugar plantations in Hawaii discovered the value of the hard-working Chinese in the mid 1800s. As the Qing dynasty began its long decline in China, men immigrated to Hawaii without their families to build many of the infrastructures we still enjoy today. On Maui they made the Lahaina sea wall, tunnels through the mountains, the Road to Hana, and the irrigation systems for the sugar plantations.Chinatown in Lahaina began as single story stores and homes on Front Street. Single men needed places to stay and congregate. Beginning in 1909 the Wo Hing Society began to collect funds to erect a building that would house the Chinese Social Club and provided a place for worship and festivities. This is one of only two social houses that survived in Hawaii.Wo Hing, the society’s name written around the door, means peace and prosperity. The Wo Hing Society Hall opened around 1912 and remained active into the 1940s. When the Chinese population in Lahaina moved to Honolulu to find work during World War II, the Wo Hing Temple and Club House fell into disrepair. Restored in 1983 by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, today it stands impressively restored on Front Street.There were several displays and a gift shop on the first floor. Carol visited with the on-duty docent, and has interesting stories about her. The age of the money encased glass box for public viewing surprised both Vince and Carol. One source stated that the Chinese originally called paper money “flying money. … Paper money came into use in the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) as a larger denomination of currency to replace the bulky ‘bolt of silk’.” Colorful Chinese paper money, though easier to carry than currency, had to be replaced or exchanged within three years. By the late 1200s, at the end of the Song dynasty, paper money became preferred to coins.The square hole in the center of the round Chinese coins had spiritual and practical value as well. A source stated the round shape symbolized heaven or the universe, while the square represented earth or China, which was the center of the universe.
The holes allowed the bronze caster to line up the coins and scrape off the metal flashing around the edges. It also enabled consumers to string their money to carry it easily.Personally, I love both jade and dogs, so I headed right for these statues. This pup is not nearly as cute as Puppy Girl, but these fierce-looking animals were guardian lions, not dogs. Westerners called them Lion dogs or Foo dogs. That is not to be confused with “foo foo” like Vince calls Puppy Girl after I spray “foo foo” smells on her after her bath. This male Lion Dog guards his embroidery ball with his foot. Trust me, I didn’t try to take his toy away from him.Just outside the door was the cookhouse. The cook probably had to prepare meals for a crowd, and he had a special building to work in. This practice curbed the fire danger to the main structure. Now the museum uses the cookhouse to show visitors films of Hawaii that were taken by Thomas Edison starting in 1898. This early film show intrigued me for several reasons. First of all the fact that it was made in 1898 and was still preserved amazed me. Additionally, the subjects of the different films fascinated me. In one short clip we saw native Hawaiians rushing around in huge amounts of clothing. We learned at the Baldwin House that Mrs. Baldwin had taught the women to sew. These women must have loved their new skill.
I enjoyed watching “cowboys” moving the cattle on and off the island. Men and cows both struggled as the cowboys pulled each animal into the water leading the with a rope around their necks. It looked and sounded impossible, but that technique must have been easier than loading five or six bulls onto small row boats and pushing the tons of objecting bulls into the water. I guess the cattle had to swim beside the small boats. I did not think the film would last as long as it did, so I started filming it. Then I got tired of focusing on the film and let my camera roam around the kitchen. I stopped just before the cattle loading started, so you’ll have to visit the museum to see it. I don’t think I’m ready for the big screen.Upstairs we saw the Taoist Temple replete with incense and fresh sacrifices of fruit and water.The temple area had few decorations or furniture.We visited a Taoist temple in Hanford, CA, and this looked much sparser and lighter.
You will learn more about our visit to the Wo Hing Chinese Museum from my Australian blogging friend, Carol, the Eternal Traveler when she and her friend Justin Beaver start writing about their Hawaiian travels. For now you can enjoy the trip she and her husband took around the perimeter of Australia.If you go to Maui, be sure to get a Passport to the Past for about $10, and that will get you into four museums. We only made it to two this trip, but we kept our cards, and hope to get to the next two museum next time.I don’t want to beat my own drum, but I hope you enjoyed this short visit to the Chinese Wo Hing Museum.